By Dave Davis, President of the Utah Food Industry Association
Since the introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) to our communities, daily life has changed for most Utahns and doesn’t look to return to normal for some time. In times of uncertainty, we often look to first responders who courageously answer the call, routinely putting their own safety in jeopardy, in order to protect complete strangers. We revere and respect the sacrifices these brave men and women make in an effort to protect our families and communities.
Over the last couple months, a new class of first responders has emerged. They have bravely answered the call to serve in a time of drastic uncertainty. This new class are those who are serving on the frontlines of the retail grocery and convenience store industries. These employees show up to work each day and provide needed food and other supplies for their local communities.
Unlike other first responders, those who serve in our local retail food stores don’t typically wear personal protective equipment. But with the introduction of this new virus, the need to protect them is more important than ever. The industry has rallied to help provide these retail first responders with increased protection so they can return home safe at the end-of-the-day. During a recent trip to your local store, you may have noticed new safety shields installed at the check stand, markings on the floor of the store to help encourage proper social distancing, and retailers limiting the number of customers that can enter a store. Cleaning and sanitizing routines have also increased in frequency throughout stores with additional cleaning stations encouraging customers to sanitize their carts at the beginning of their shopping trip.
The safety and concern for our retail heroes has extended beyond the store walls. Adjustments have been made to leave policies in the event an employee becomes ill or becomes the caregiver of someone that has. Many retailers have recognized the efforts made by these new first responders and have provided additional financial compensation for their willingness to serve.
We are all in this fight together. You can do your part while shopping these stores by practicing good social distancing, washing your hands frequently and bringing only those who are necessary to the store. Shoppers should closely monitor their own health and if you are experiencing symptoms or think you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should contact a health care provider before you enter a retail store.
It is unclear how long we will experience this departure from everyday life. We must do all we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 and cooperate with the health care professionals and government officials who are working to keep our communities safe. While there is still plenty of uncertainty, there is one aspect of daily life we can all count on—this new class of retail first responders will be there, ready to serve. The retail food industry will continue to do all in our power to protect these everyday heroes and the customers they serve. Our hope is that during this global pandemic when our government leaders are doing the hard work of prioritizing scarce resources, that they not forget our first responders who are stocking shelves, ringing up sales and bagging groceries.
The next time you are shopping your local grocery or convenience store, please take a moment and thank these retail heroes for their bravery and service.